The U.S. is home to upward of 42 million Spanish speakers, making it the country with the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, with Mexico being the first. By 2050, it is projected that 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will speak Spanish, according to Forbes.
The recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1988, expanding on Hispanic Heritage Week which began in 1968. President Ronald Reagan expanded this holiday, and it was formally enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988.
Sept. 15 is a significant date in several Latin American countries such as Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras because it is the anniversary of their independence. This is the reason that the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month begins on this date.
All across the U.S. during the months of September and October, there are events, festivals and exhibitions taking place embracing Hispanic culture. Even in Ohio, there are several activities to attend for people interested in appreciating Hispanic traditions.
The Hispanic Heritage Festival took place on Sept. 17 in Blue Ash, Ohio. Other events coming up include the Canton Latino Fest in Canton, Ohio on Sept. 30, and the Latino Heritage Month Art Show in Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 13.
These events and more are open to people of all backgrounds and nationalities; people don’t need to look or talk a certain way to enjoy what Hispanic culture has to offer. From music such as bachata and reggaeton to foods such as empanadas and street tacos, there is so much that Hispanic culture has brought to the U.S.
Kaleigh Zimmer, a sophomore studying biology, embraces Hispanic culture through the different foods she eats.
“My uncle is from Panama, so I grew up around a lot of Hispanic food like empanadas and pastelitos,” said Zimmer. “Also, a cousin of mine is Puerto Rican, so I’ve always eaten Puerto Rican rice and beans.”
Food is a big part of what brings people together in Hispanic culture, and Claudia Pérez, a Master’s student and instructor, agrees that food is a big factor in Mexican culture.
“Living in another country makes you love the one you come from so much more,” said Pérez. “Being here makes me miss the food, I think it’s what I miss the most. The chile, here nothing is spicy so I keep my fridge stocked with salsa.”
Besides food, there is a sense of community and belonging that is rampant in Hispanic culture. It's almost as if everyone in the Hispanic community is family, regardless of blood relation.
“What’s most important is my people, and I don’t just mean my family,” said Pérez. “The community, the way of life. The 16th is Mexico’s day of independence, so right now everyone in Mexico is dressed up in green, white and red. There’s mariachis and tequila; I miss the traditions.”
Culture means different things to everyone and there are several different ways to celebrate it. Jessi Thrasher, a sophomore studying journalism, believes that people themselves are what define culture.
“Culture is important to me because it’s what you make of it,” said Thrasher. “It isn’t always about what you’ve grown up around or been exposed to, but what you’ve sought out and spent time in.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of culture. It is an appreciation of the history, traditions and customs brought to the U.S. by its Hispanic inhabitants. Hispanic voices have influenced the music, food, fashion and pop culture of the U.S. in countless ways.
While September and October are the official months dedicated to the observation of Hispanic heritage, the Hispanic community is shaping the way of life in the U.S. year-round.